For Veterinarians

Veterinarians: if you know a recently discovered, mutilated animal has received any sedative / hypnotic, general anesthetic, or even local anesthetic drug within 1 week prior to a suspected mutilation, please DO NOT acquire a liver biopsy, blood, or urine sample for laboratory GC/MS, LC/MS, or cyanide testing. Residual, detectable levels of these drugs might still be present that will confound our results.

We are trying to ascertain how these animals are being subdued and killed. These are forensic cases. If you perform a necropsy, please pay particular attention to what position the animal is in when first discovered. Do you find evidence of  blunt trauma, tire tracks, bullet wounds, internal shrapnel, strangulation (rope), rope burns or abrasions, electrocution (lightening), dart sites, long bone or pelvic fractures (dropped from height), estimate of the volume of blood on ground surrounding the animal, serrations in cut hide margins, cauterization of cut hide margins, or missing organs (external or internal)? What is your estimate of the residual blood volume inside the animal (lots, less than you would expect, or absent)? Is there hide denuded of hair in the area of dorsal, caudal back, especially along the spine? Are there square or stellate puncture wounds in this area? Are there any areas of very hard, brittle hide?

Sheriff Keith Wolverton informs me that he recalls someone using a “black light” (Wood’s lamp) who identified cattle that appeared to be marked with a “green stripe” visible only under the UV light. If you have a Wood’s lamp handy you might look for this.

In cases of suspected cattle (or horse) mutilations thought to be discovered within 48 hours of the animal’s death (and certainly if rigor mortis is still evident) I ask that you collect and send the following biological samples:

  1. Blood: fill grey top (2), lavender top (2), and red top (2) vacutainer tubes and place them on ice (or frozen cold pack) as soon as possible. Label 1 grey and 1 lavender tubes as “Toxicology: r/o cyanide poisoning” Label 1 red top “Toxicology:for GC/MS and LC/MS – r/o drug overdose”. Retain 1 grey, 1 lavender, and 1 red top tube of blood and freeze these for further testing, if necessary.
  2. Liver: Excise a thumb-size sample of liver (a minimum of 6 grams is required for testing). Freeze this ASAP. Send this sample, frozen, in double, clean, tightly sealed plastic bags (no formalin). Label “Toxicology: for GC/MS and LC/MS – r/o drug overdose”.
  3. Urine: obtain 1 oz. (30 ml) in clean syringe – aspirate directly from bladder with needle/syringe. Freeze specimen ASAP. Label “Toxicology: for GC/MS and LC/MS: r/o drug overdose”. (Here we are looking for metabolites of drugs excreted in the urine).
  4. Place all samples in a freezer and keep frozen until ready to send.
  5. Many veterinary labs cannot perform the tests we need. Go to UC Davis CAHFS website: and either fill out the submittal form online and then print it, or print the form and write in the requested information.
  6. Mailing address: CAHFS, Davis / University California, Davis / 620 Health Sciences Drive / Davis, CA / 95616
  7. With ranchers permission, please contact me about the testing results through the “Comments” section below.


I am certain that I am not the first person to ask the question, “Are drugs being used to subdue these animals?” Some of you (or your predecessors) who have investigated these cases over the past 40 years have asked that question before, and perhaps some of you have already submitted blood, urine, or tissue samples for this kind of testing. If you have, and if you have retained those records, I need to hear from you! Please, CONTACT me about those results!

Also, if you have suggestions as to how this study should be carried out or improved, what drugs we should be screening for, how to screen, etc. – I readily acknowledge that I am not a veterinarian, I have limited knowledge of these matters, and I am open to your (constructive) suggestions! Contact me through the “Comments” section below.

I do not expect nor do I intend to profit from my work on this. My involvement in this is strictly due to my own curiosity about these extraordinary events, the fact that I am retired and have the time available, and to my desire to contribute in some way toward hopefully, one day, finding some answers to this quite baffling and ongoing enigma.

Through my past conversations with an AVMA representative and several officials from the MT Dept. of Livestock it is clear to me that these organizations still categorize these cases of cattle (or other large animal) mutilations as being the result of “natural predators”. I can state, with certainty, that these cases are not the result of natural predators. I can tell you that the ranchers I have talked to certainly hold that opinion as well. “Natural predators” currently remains the designated “party line” to “explain” these events, but this needs to stop. This answer is simply an easy out for a very difficult question, an answer promulgated by those who have, perhaps understandably up until now, been too timid to state the obvious – that these unique cases are forensic, felony, animal murder cases that have defied any reasonable explanation over several decades and 100s (perhaps 1000’s?) of cases. Who could be capable of doing something like this, and how? Any of you who have personally seen and examined one of these cases has likely suspected that you were looking at something quite different that you could not explain. You likely suspected that you were looking at a forensic case involving the murder and mutilation of a recently healthy animal, an animal that had gone through what was, very likely, a terrifying experience. They, and this unique class of cases, deserve more honest treatment than they have received so far. This situation merits an all-out effort to finally solve this vexing mystery. We cannot leave this up to law enforcement officials because, although I am sure they have tried to find answers, they do not have the skills, the equipment, or the knowledge to properly attack this conundrum. These cases deserve our attention, an answer, and eventually, a solution, as to how to stop these events from recurring. Science will be key to that effort.

What Can You Do?

To begin with, you can provide input to AVMA, your state’s veterinary medical association, your state’s stock grower’s association, and your state’s department of livestock, requesting that they formally acknowledge that cattle and other large animal mutilation cases are real, they are unique, they are ongoing, they are forensic felony crimes, they should be designated as reportable cases, they remain without an adequate explanation of who or how, and they have not received any meaningful attention from any of these organizations – attention that they clearly merit. Ask if those organizations would be willing to put forward any funding to support these studies. This request must come from their interested veterinarian constituents.

Second, I encourage each of you to request that AVMA and your state vet-med associations invite investigative journalist Linda Moulton Howe to speak about cattle mutilations at an annual AVMA conference. She is the author of a book about cattle mutilations titled An Alien Harvest and a documentary titled A Strange Harvest. In my opinion she is our world’s leading expert on historical information relevant to cattle mutilations. Having her speak at this prestigious meeting would, I believe, result in a sea-change in how AVMA, state vet-med associations, and individual veterinarians both understand and respond to these inscrutable but fascinating cases. She is bright, she is knowledgeable, she is an excellent public speaker, and I am certain that her presentation would be interesting, informative, and well-received by all in attendance.

Addressing the question of why mutilations happen will come later, when we have acquired and analyzed the data we need. That is where all of you, our nation’s “boots on the ground” veterinarians, can be of immense help as we strive to collect and organize that data. Please help in this effort. If you have already collected data relevant to the question, “are drugs involved?”, please submit that data to me. My present goal is to acquire “drugs / no drugs”  and/or “cyanide / no cyanide” data for 10 stereotypical, recently-discovered-after-death cases of cattle (or horse) mutilation.  This may and likely will take some time, perhaps several years, to gather enough data from a sufficient number of high-quality cases but, after decades of waiting for an answer, whatever answers we may discover will be worth the effort.

Thanks for your help!

Richard O’Connor, M.D.



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